Research on skyrmions may lead to more effective data storage
Skyrmions, commonly imagined as tiny magnetic swirls, are nanoscale magnetic quasi-particles that have recently become a hot topic because of their potential in the development of faster and more effective data storage devices.
For the first time, an international group of scientists, with lead scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US, and the Max-Born-Institut in Berlin have successfully been able to observe the formation of skyrmions in a magnetic material by using ultrashort laser pulses in a magnetic material, shedding light into the microscopic process and its time period. The X-ray pulses of the European XFEL’s revealed the creation of tiny skyrmion structures on nanometer length scales at a speed which is faster than previously thought possible. The results have been published in Nature Materials.
At the atomic level, magnetic materials resemble a sea of magnetic spins in either an ‘up’ or ‘down’ orientation. These spins are linked to each other so that a single spin change will affect the orientation of other spins. Skyrmions are tiny swirl-like structures where the center spin is oppositely aligned to the spins located at its boundary with a twisted spin configuration in between. These complex spin structures are very stable and small, making them interesting candidates for future spintronic devices. Spintronics exploits both the spin and the charge of electrons that could lower energy consumption in future memory devices and data storages.
Read more on the European XFEL website
Image: A laser pulse transforms a uniform magnetization (magnetization down everywhere) to a skyrmion swirl where the magnetization in the center points up. This transformation changes the so-called topology of the system.
Credit: B. Pfau, Max Born Institute